Americans’ Contact Group Industry, Corporatocracy, Gaddafi, Gross Inequality, Libya, Military Industrial Complex, Mustafa Abu Shagour, National Transitional Council, NATO, Neoliberal Capitalism, Nouri al-Maliki, Privatization, Security and Surveillance State, Social Unrest, The Elite 1%, War on Terror
The following is an excerpt from an article published just yesterday by Vijay Prashad, chair of South Asian history and director of international studies at Trinity College and author of Arab Spring, Libyan Winter. To understand why those on the blunt end of American foreign policy feel compelled to lash out, you should read this:
Western support for Gaddafi not forgotten
…After 9/11, when the West wanted to outsource torture to prisons outside its direct control, Gaddafi (like Mubarak and Syria’s Assad) offered his services. In March 2004, the US opened a diplomatic mission in Tripoli, and the CIA opened up an office there as well. Later that month, Tony Blair came to Libya, the first British prime minister to visit the country since 1943, and he spent considerable time talking about commercial interests (to get Shell its oil concessions) and the “common cause” in fighting terrorism. Blair was excited to meet Gaddafi (the “Leader,” as the British faxes to Tripoli put it) in his tent because “journalists would love it. If this is possible, No. 10 would be grateful.” As quid pro quo, the British organized the “rendition” of LIFG [Libyan Islamic Fighting Group] militants into the hands of the Gaddafi regime. “This was the least we could do for you and for Libya to demonstrate the remarkable relationship we have built over the years,” wrote Sir Mark Allen, head of Britain’s MI6 to Gaddafi’s henchman Moussa Koussa on 18 March 2004. The specific matter here was the “safe arrival of Abu Abdallah Sadiq,” the nom de plume of Abdul Hakim Belhadj, former emir of LIFG and now leader of the al-Watan political party (and a crucial leader of the military part of the 2011 Revolution).
A comprehensive Human Rights Watch report, Delivered into Enemy Hands: US-Led Abuse and Rendition of Opponents to Gaddafi’s Libya, released last week details the stories of a number of the leading figures who were arrested around the world, tortured in US-run prisons in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and then delivered back to Libya. They were handed over to the Libyan authorities with full-awareness that they were going to be tortured or even killed. Belhadj and his wife, Fatima Bouchar (four months pregnant at the time), were picked up in Malaysia and allegedly tortured by the CIA in Bangkok, Thailand. Bouchar told Human Rights Watch, “They knew I was pregnant. It was obvious,” and yet, she, who had no affiliations with any militant groups, was chained up and given no food for five days. The couple were then taken to Libya. In one fax, the CIA thanks the Libyan security service for its “hospitality” and says that its visit was “very productive.” When the couple arrived in Libya, Moussa Koussa chillingly greeted Belhadj, “I’ve been waiting for you.”
In April 2012, Belhadj told the European Parliament, “All we seek is justice. We hope the new Libya, freed from its dictator, will have positive relationships with the West. But this relationship must be built on respect and justice. Only by admitting and apologizing for past mistakes can we move forward together as friends.” People like Belhadj stand for a social section that has had its dignity compromised by Western actions. A longing for dignity drives revolts. It is what compelled the rebellion against Gaddafi’s regime. It is what remains a major catalyst for unrest in the region against Western interests, particularly since there will be no apology for the rendition program or for the close, even servile, collaboration with the Gaddafi regime from, at least, 2003 to 2011. Gaddafi’s henchman, Moussa Koussa was spirited off on a British military plane in March 2011, payback for his services to MI6, and now lives in a comfortable bungalow in Doha, Qatar. Neither he, nor his friend Sir Mark Allen, nor the CIA’s Steve Kappes, will ever have to admit to what they did, apologize for it, or be charged with grave violations of international law.
The humiliations accumulate without outlet.
Libyan rage despite elections
The elections in July heralded an opening for Libya. The results were celebrated in the West, since it seemed that unlike Tunisia and Egypt, the Islamists had not garnered the fruits of the revolts. The neo-liberal sections, led by Mahmoud Jibril’s National Forces Alliance won a majority. Jibril had been the political face of the Libyan Diaspora. After a career in the Gulf, he returned to Libya in the 2000s at the urging of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, who wanted to convert his country into a “Kuwait on the Mediterranean.” When things did not work out as planned, Jibril got frustrated. He had no political base. When the rebellion broke out, Jibril threw in his lot with it, and thanks to NATO intervention, was able to use his affinity with the West to put himself into a position of political power. His victory in the polls vindicated NATO, which now felt that it had its man in charge – open to sweetheart deals for Western oil companies and eager to push further the neo-liberal agenda that was constrained five years ago…
And in a recent article in the Hindu Times concerning the writings of the above author Vijay Prashad:
Books : Oil over people in the Arab world
…Conduct of West
Over Libya, Prashad shows just how dirty western conduct has been. Libya, one of Africa’s wealthiest countries, was seriously harmed by U.N. sanctions imposed in 1992 for its alleged involvement in the bombing of a U.S. airliner over the Scottish village of Lockerbie in 1988 (a crime yet to be satisfactorily explained, even according to some of the families who lost loved ones in the attack). The chaos following the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003, however, revived western fears over access to oil; George W. Bush and Tony Blair renewed links with Qadhafi, who while no saint himself was now easy prey for Libyan neoliberals — including his son Saif al-Islam, the politician Mahmoud Jibril, the oil corporations, and consultants like McKinsey.
Sensing likely exclusion from the spoils, the eastern region of Cyrenaica rebelled. This was the excuse the Atlantic powers wanted; Qadhafi had long alienated Saudi Arabia, which effectively pushed the Arab League into supporting the U.N. no-fly zone over Libya (only 11 of the 23 members attended the vote), and the west totally ignored the African Union’s strong mediation plan. Western officials’ wild claims of genocide and mass rape — still unproven — by government forces helped override Arab leaders’ doubts, and by the time the latter withdrew their support for the no-fly zone it was too late. Mahmoud Jibril emerged as prime minister of the new state. And a dead Qadhafi could tell no tales…
Sociologist Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya explains how the West uses an instrument called “CONTACT GROUPS” in order to facilitate the toppling of governments and secure the interests of multinational corporations and neoliberal capitalism.
‘Friends’ like these…
Anybody who has studied how the US and NATO worked to topple the Jamahiriya in Libya knows that the US has tried to replicate the same regime-change mechanism in Syria.
The formation of multilateral contact groups supporting proxy oppositions has been a key to this process. What most people do not know is that the Americans’ contact group industry started in Somalia…
…The NTC [National Transitional Council] has privatized Libya’s assets and siphoned off its wealth under the management of Libyan-American neo-liberal economist turned “oil and finance minister” Ali Tarhouni. Libya’s oil is no longer in the hands of Libyans, who are now too busy fighting one another with RPG launchers, armored vests, and light infantry rifles, courtesy of NATO.
In Somalia and Libya what has replaced the ICU [The Islamic Court Union] and Jamahiriya is a never-ending state of “transition” and enclaves of guarded bureaucrats tied to Washington, Brussels, the IMF, and World Bank, who are detached from the violent reality in their countries.
Outside of these bureaucratic offices, the rule of law has crumpled and the streets are run by militias and thugs. The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) took over in Libya and Al-Shaabab ran wild in Somalia, both with the help of foreign fighters.
The word on the street is that all the candidates in the recent Libyan election were proxies of Western imperialism, and the winner appears to be hand-picked:
Libya’s national congress picked Mustafa Abu Shagour as prime minister on Wednesday, the US-trained optical engineer naming improved services and security as his priorities a day after suspected Islamist gunmen killed the US ambassador to Libya.
Abu Shagour defeated wartime rebel premier Mahmoud Jibril in a close second round vote by 96 votes to 94 in a contest that was shown live on national television.
As government chief he will be responsible for the day-to-day running of Libya’s oil-based economy while the national congress elected in July passes laws and helps draft a new constitution for the North African state…
The vote was overshadowed by the killing of the US ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans in an attack on the US consulate and a safe house refuge in Benghazi.
“It makes security high on my priorities,” he said…
I wonder if he’ll follow in the footsteps of Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki:
Roberts had it right:
from Blowback of the ugliest kind: The lessons no one will learn from Benghazi
…Let us assume that the attack was in fact not directly related to the protests in Benghazi but rather was the work of an al-Qaeda affiliated cell that either planned it in advance or took advantage of the opportunity to attack. If correct, we are forced to confront the very hard questions raised by the support for the violent insurgency against Gaddafi instead of following the much more difficult route of pressing for continued non-violent resistance against his murderous regime.
Now that the violence has been turned against their representatives, will Americans respond as expected, with prejudice and ignorance? Or, during this crucial election season, will they ask hard questions of their leaders about the wisdom of violent interventions in the context of a larger regional system which the United States administers that remains largely driven by violence? Such a choice was extremely hard to make while Gaddafi was massacring Libyans by the thousands. But it’s one that needs to be examined in great detail if the most recent deaths are to have any lasting meaning. As long as the jihadis were rampaging Mali or destroying Sufi shrines, Americans didn’t have to think about the costs of supporting the violent removal of Gaddafi.
As I flew home yesterday from Europe, unaware of what had transpired in Libya, I read through the 2008 report by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, titled “From Exporting Terrorism to Exporting Oppression: Human Rights in the Arab Region”.
The report described the often unbearable levels of abuse suffered by citizens across the region is one of the most depressing reads imaginable. Every single government, from Morocco to Iraq, was defined by the systematic abuse of its citizens, denial of their most basic rights, and rampant corruption and violence. And in every case, such abuses and violence have been enabled by Western, Russian and other foreign interests.
Simply put, each and all of the policies and actions described in the report – and 2008 was no better or worse than the years that proceeded or followed it – are as much forms of terror as the destruction of the World Trade Centre, invasion of Iraq, or attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi.
In fact, the Middle East and North Africa have for over half a century constituted one of the largest and most pernicious terror systems of the modern era. And the US, Europe, Russia, and now increasingly China have been accessories, co-conspirators, and often initiators of this terror throughout the period, working hand-in-hand with local governments to repress their peoples and ensure that wealth and power remain arrogated by a trusted few.
Who can lead?
If the combination of the report and the news of the Benghazi attack weren’t enough, within 20 minutes of arriving home, and while I was getting up to speed on the Benghazi attacks to respond to the inevitable media queries that were coming my way (Why do Muslims react like this just to a stupid movie? was what everyone wanted to know), I received the following alert from some Moroccan activists:
This abuse was perpetrated by a “moderate”, “modern” regime whom Secretary of State Clinton recently praised as not merely a leader for peace in the region, but a “very good model for others who are also seeking to have their own democratic reforms”.
What do Americans really expect to be the result of such bald-faced lies and support for brutality by our leaders?
The Arab uprisings of the last two years have at least given the world hope that a rising generation, in the region and – with their inspiration – globally, is finally trying to challenge the international terror system that ensures that hundreds of millions (indeed, billions) of people live mired in poverty and hopelessness, with almost no chance to create a better future, all so that a global elite can enjoy unimaginable wealth and power.
As global warming increases with its attendant environmental crises, food and fuel become more scarce and expensive, and global inequality rends social fabrics everywhere, we all have a choice.
We can succumb to the hatred and anger and each do our own part to speed the trip to our collective Hell, or we can follow the lead of the heroes of Bourguiba Boulevard, Midan Tahrir, Madrid’s Puerta del Sol, Wall Street and numerous other places where during the last two years, at least for a moment, ordinary people have come together to knock down the system that has oppressed them for as long as they can remember.
Choice number one is far easier, as it will happen merely by continuing to think and act, as we always have and letting inertia carry us over the cliff. Choice number two demands that people everywhere engage in serious soul searching, make profound changes in their most basic attitudes, beliefs, actions and policies, and then force our leaders to do the same.
Whichever choice we collectively make, events like the Benghazi attacks and all they signify remind us that at least we’ve been warned.
Excellent post on this subject by Peter van Buren:
US Ambassador to Libya Killed: Still Laughing Madame Secretary?
“…It is not about a movie. The anti-Islam movie was just today’s trigger, the most recent one. Behind the easy, casual “oh, it was our free speech that angered them” we seem to forget what filmmaker James Spione knows, that the invasions of multiple Muslim countries, the killing and wounding of hundreds of thousands of civilians to “free them,” the displacement of millions more as refugees, the escalating drone attacks, the torture and rendition, Guantanamo itself as a symbol of all that is wrong with our policies, the propping up of corrupt regimes in Baharain, Saudi and until we changed directions, Libya and Syria, the relentless horrific violence unleashed year after year after year by America’s military. Let’s at least be honest about the miasma of hatred we’ve created that is the true context for this horrible incident.
It wasn’t just a movie. As if to make the point, Obama is on TV saying “justice will be done” in his serious voice, and CNN reports US drones are being sent to hunt down the killers in Libya.
Indeed, the US rendered human beings into Qaddafi’s Libya for torture just a few years ago. Some of those who were rendered and tortured under US sponsorship now hold key leadership and political positions in the Libyan government. Payback, revenge, call it what you wish.
For those who will claim articles such as this are politicizing a tragedy, remember this: the Ambassador was there as a political symbol, and he was killed as a political symbol. He and the Consulate were targeted specifically because they represent America. Our diplomats are abroad for that purpose, and become the closest targets for those who wish to attack America. Expect more, especially when the US and/or Israel strike Iran.
It wasn’t just a movie. They don’t hate us for our freedoms. They hate us for what we do to them.
America needs a policy in the Middle East that is not based on killing if we ever want the killing to stop.”